Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad told Russian lawmakers during a meeting in Damascus that he is willing to eventually hold parliamentary and presidential elections and is ready to run himself for another seven-year term in office, RIA news agency reported, citing Russian Communist Party (KPRF) deputy Alexander Yushchenko.
"He is ready to conduct elections with the participation of all political forces who want Syria to prosper," RIA quoted the Russian lawmaker Yushchenko, who is staying in Syria as part of a delegation of Russian parliamentarians with a humanitarian mission.
Assad stated that he was ready to take part in the polls "if the people are not against it," Yushchenko added that he "is absolutely confident of his electoral potential, if the presidential elections are held.”
However, Yushchenko stressed that Assad was ready to discuss constitutional reform and eventual elections only, "after the victory over terrorism on the territory of Syria and the country’s liberation."
Sergey Gavrilov also said that his impression from Assad was that "the first aim [is] the struggle with and victory over ... terrorism, and after that the elections - parliamentary and president elections".
"We [the Russian delegation] expressed the position that a deep constitutional reform should come from Damascus and not from Washington or Ankara," the Russian MP said.
He also added that Assad drew a parallel between the current events in Ukraine and the current situation in Syria, saying that “although these countries are different, the architect behind what is happening today is the same. Nationalists in Ukraine and Daesh [ISIS] terrorists are receiving orders from one center.”
Such an announcement is expected to outrage opposition fighting factions as well as Washington and its allies who all agree that there is no future for Assad in post-conflict Syria.
But, there is also disagreements on whether Assad should step down during the transition period or he should just immediately resign.
On Saturday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Syria should begin preparing for elections.
Lavrov also said that Moscow was prepared to cater air support for "patriotic" fighters battling Assad.
The offer of help apparently marked a hint of change in Moscow's stance, since Russia had previously only used the word "patriotic" to describe factions fighting to maintain Assad’s power in Syria.
Representatives of Syria's opposition fighting factions rejected Russia's offer, saying that Moscow should first stop bombing civilians and opposition fighting factions in Syria.
The Russian delegation's meeting with Assad in Damascus completes a week of intense diplomacy, which also saw Assad’s first trip abroad since the outbreak of unrest in 2011, when President Vladimir Putin hosted Assad at the Kremlin for a surprise summit on Tuesday.
Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday agreed in Vienna to find new methods of trying to reach a political solution.
Syria last held presidential elections in June 2014, an election which was dismissed by the opposition and condemned internationally.
Apparently Assad had then won 88.7 percent of the votes and was re-elected for a seven-year term, but the poll was held only in government-controlled areas, and amid high security where no opposition reside.